The All Blacks lost two tests in a row to Ireland recently. This led to a national outcry and calls for leadership changes in the team, coaching staff, and the governing body. The Rugby Union CEO publicly labelled the results as ‘unacceptable’, and the media focus remains to this day.
The number ‘two’ also featured in another media story last week, but the public outcry has been somewhat muted. The construction Industry loses two of its workers each month to workplace accidents. WorkSafe NZ CEO Phil Parkes has publicly called this unacceptable. However, the nation as a whole seems to have shrugged its collective shoulders and moved onto the next test match.
There were no calls for the resignations of anyone.
It has now been seven years since the ‘new’ Health and Safety at Work act was passed into law. This has resulted in greater regulation and accountability, greater worker involvement and engagement, greater emphasis on the role of health and safety advisors and managers in both normal work practices and in governance. Despite all these changes and improvements in the way health and safety is practiced and delivered, the number of people dying on construction sites has remained consistently high.
WorkSafe, CHASNZ and the CTU issued the press release and have called for changes at all levels in the industry and parts of the supply chain. Change is needed, and I think we would agree that all stakeholders from clients, designers, main contractors, workers and Boards have a part to play. I think we could also agree that doing more of the same is not likely to produce different results. The devil is always in the detail, and what specific changes and how we make them remain unclear.
The Canterbury Safety Charter was born out of the earthquakes, and the need for better health and safety outcomes during the deconstruction and rebuild of the cities horizontal and vertical infrastructure. The modelling at the time suggested that given the scope of the works required, several workers lives would be lost. The Charter was launched as an industry and worker led movement, with organisations both large and small committing to making improvements in ten specific areas. These ten ‘Charter Commitments’ to improvements in health and safety remain as relevant today as they were at the start.
The result for Canterbury was that no workers lost their lives during the demolition and rebuild. The difference I believe was that the Charter provided the forum for connection between all stakeholders in the industry, focussed solely on health and safety. The CEO’s of the major construction companies were in the same room as the subbies and workers. The conversations centred around collaboration rather than competition, and a shared vision of what success looked like. The result was a raising of the expectations of what could be achieved both individually and collectively.
We never expect the All Blacks to lose, which is why the outcry is so great when they do. Why do we not have the same expectation about people returning home from work safely? Some rugby matches are called ‘Test Matches’ because they are tests of character. How you stand up when the going gets tough. Maybe a Safety Charter needs to be established in each major suburban region, with the lofty aim of zero loses.
Losing one is one too many. Losing two in a month should lead to…….
Paul Duggan, General Manager